Calif. Legislature Proposes 10% College Cost Increase

By By U Wire

By U Wire

LOS ANGELES?The California state Legislature’s latest report, in an effort to reform the master plan for higher education, questions California’s long-standing low fee policy, suggesting that college costs be raised by 10 percent.

Currently the University of California is regarded as one of the best deals in higher education. In 2001, fees for the UC were roughly 77 percent of the level charged at all public research universities around the country, according to a report issued by the Finance and Facilities Working Group?one of seven sub groups advising the state senate and assembly’s joint committee to develop a master plan for education.

But all that may change.

“The original master plan came down squarely on the side of low student charges, prohibiting tuition and assuming that the posted price of admission was the most important factor steering young adults toward or away from college,” according to the report, which was released last week.

“Statewide student charges should increase in a gradual, moderate and predictable fashion,” it continued.

In the early 1990s, during an economic recession, tuition fees increased by 40 percent, according to Stephen Blake, chief consultant for the joint committee.

The quick increase in fees discouraged people from coming to the UC, Blake said.

“[Potential students] stopped thinking [the UC] was affordable,” Blake said.

“If you had a rational increase in fees, you could rationally plan financial aid policies and outreach policies, so those who would be affected by an increase [would] know they qualify for aid,” he added.

The report cited “modern realities” as the reason a policy reconsideration is necessary.

“Modern realities” refers to the strong budgetary pressure higher education is subjected to from the current depressed economy, said Michael Ricketts, consultant for the Finance and Facilities working group.

Currently the state of California is facing a multi billion dollar budget shortfall and an increase in student fees has been presented as one possible way to help California’s fiscal situation.

“Student fees are decreased in good economic times and are increased in bad economic times,” Ricketts said.

“These are the cycles our report is making recommendations on. The state needs to develop a consistent policy with tuition increases that are moderate,” he added.

Members of the working group believe that because of the access of financial aid, an increase in fees?if moderate?plays a relatively small part of a person’s decision on where or if to college.

Instead, the report suggests other factors, such as the role of parents and a student’s high school achievements, play a more important role for students enrolling in college.

The report also suggests that a 10 percent fee increase in tuition would only reduce enrollment by 0.52 percent in four-year institutions and by 1.34 percent in two-year institutions.